That Pile Of Papers On My Counter

Mar 29

I am sifting through the stack of papers on our counter that materializes out of thin air by the hour.  Seriously, where does it come from?  There is mail, Maren art, catalogues, to do lists, receipts, grocery lists, coupons, and more Maren art.  I sort, toss, file.  I move through the pile and I find that I have a coupon for “$10.00 Off: All styles of bangs to wear under hats.”  I freeze as I read that again to make sure I understand, then continue reading.  Another coupon on the sheet reads: “Free Turban.”  There are coupons for Custom Chemothrapy Wigs and coupons for Fashion Wigs.  What pile does this fall into?  Trash?  To do?  Coupons? I will be bald two weeks from today and I have no idea how to handle this.  

I am generally a great source of information about random things.  People call me about baby products and household items.  First time moms want my list of must-haves when they go to do their registries.  I am frugal and I enjoy high-quality products, so I do a lot of research and leg work before I commit to purchases.  This cancer pile on my counter: it is new.  It is 11 days old.  I tried on hats for Brad yesterday, and he was totally worthless.  We have finally found my man’s weakness.  It’s okay, though, because I have some great girlfriends.  I am pretty sure they will make sure that I am sporting the most stylish headwear of any bald 32-year-old mom in the state.  Oh, and girls, an extra challenge: this summer I’m going to be extra sun-sensitive (as if my normal 55 spf isn’t bad enough).  But, I will not hibernate, I will not go quietly into the night.  I’m going to be out there, living my good days up.  If you see me at the pool, at church, at the restaurant, at the zoo, don’t try to stop your kid from staring at me.  Walk up, smile and introduce yourself.  Ask about my beautiful children; let me compliment yours.  Let me be something other than That Cancer Mom to you.  I like friends.  Even if I am bald.

The next stack of papers is from when Brad stopped to talk to a counselor at a cancer care center.  “10 Tips for Parents Coping With Cancer in the Family.”  I feel immediate revulsion at the summation of 10 tips and it will all be okay–exactly the same revulsion I’ve felt towards “10 Tips for Losing Your Baby Weight in 3 Days,” or whatever those articles are.  I’m aggravated and edgy reading the list because I’M HER MOM AND I’M A DAMN GOOD ONE AND I CAN EXPLAIN ALL KINDS OF THINGS REALLY, REALLY WELL YOU STUPID ARTICLE WRITERS, BUT SHE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS.

Whew.  Okay.  I feel better.  Sorry to go all Mama Bear on you, but I know all you moms out there are responding the same way I am.  This is hard.  But.  Kids are resilient.  My Maren, my Greta, they are resilient, smart and strong.  We went to visit a new babysitter this morning, and Maren did not want to leave at the end; she wanted to stay and play.  (It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that she was told there were American Girl dolls upstairs.)  We’ve discovered that Greta’s first day with someone new is rocky, but that she adapts and does well the second day.  Maren is nodding instead of crying when we talk about the schedule changes that are coming.  A good friend, a new friend, made the suggestion that I take Maren with me to the doctor one time so that she can see how disarming it is, so that the doctor  does not become scary and mysterious to her.  Isn’t that a brilliant suggestion?  I can’t wait for the nurses and doctors to meet her, and I never would have thought of the idea.  I think it will have a positive impact on all parties involved.  The only thing worse for this 32-year-old mom than a bangs-only wig (I just don’t get that one) is trying to explain to my four-year-old that I have cancer.  There are many of my friends reading this blog who have little kids. Kids who stare at people with disabilities out of innocent curiousity, kids who might be afraid of my appearance, kids who might feel scared.  Thus I feel compelled to share a couple of quick facts that the counselor shared with Brad.

Be careful with your words: Kids get sick, and they take medicine.  Use the word cancer, use the word chemotherapy; don’t leave them petrified of their next run-of-the-mill illness.  Unmask cancer, don’t make it a monster.  Explain that they can’t catch it, and also that there is nothing that did that caused it.  Little kids are very literal and have a very small world.  Don’t give them more information than they ask for; let them ask questions, or let the conversation end.  Don’t make any promises.  Tell them the truth.  And then pray for me together, please.  🙂

At the bottom of the pile are cards that people have sent me.  I reread them (see I told you I wouldn’t be a hater with the cards), I find the little praying girl Maren colored ten days ago, I find the application for Greta’s passport, I find a CD of fight songs a friend made with me in mind, I find prayers written and breathed into, I find the information about our neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt this weekend, I find Bible verses of truth and hope, I find peace, I find plans, hope, life, inspiration, will, resolve.

I have so much to live for.  I am so happy.  Please, God, please heal my body.  Take my cancer away.


  1. Donna Dundee /

    Praying for you, and admiring your openess and courage. I know that others will be encouraged as they read your blog.

  2. Samantha Cahalan /

    I can not imagine the emotional rollercoaster you are going through. But I once read that one should, “Trust the journey.” Easier than it sounds I’m sure, but it gave me strength during some very rough spots. Please know you have people whom you do not know praying for you. xoxo Sam

  3. Erica Snipes /

    *Sigh* You write beautifully, and real-ly. Cancer touches so many people–direclty or indirectly through friends and family. The last year or so has really taught me that. And my prayer book is becoming too full of people with cancer that I pray for. My twins will be three a week from saturday and our evening prayers used to include so many names. Now we just say Lord, we pray for a cure for cancer. Or rather I say it–the twins aren’t super talkative yet. Last night, though, my Christine said, “no Mommy, I not want to pray for cancer.” I hugged her–truer words, for sure. We don’t want to pray for cancer, but we pray for you, and for your girls, and your hubby, and the too many in your shoes who have to fight this battle. Blessings!!!!

  4. I have a friend going through this and she bought a pink wig. She took pictures with her high school students and her wearing the pink wig. She has several wigs like that pink…purple…She also has a caring bridge page which is how many have kept up with her. I have seen many beautiful turbans. A woman at my church matched them to all her outfits and even wore gorgeous fancy pins attached to them. I mean it can be a fashion statement, right? You are brave. Do you know how many days I have felt too tired or depressed to even sort through my mail? And what is my excuse? And there you are with the weight of the world on you and YOU are going through your mail and doing daily life. So I have no excuse. And I am praying for you. That the enemy will be defeated!! God hears our prayers. He does!!!!

  5. EmilyR /

    I’m coming over from Glennon’s, and I wanted to say that your attitude is going to get you so far. It means everything in this battle. I have one small thing to offer that helped us: telling our young kids that they didn’t make this happen to Mommy. For some reason, that was their concern (and one that never occurred to me they would fear), and when I found out and told them it wasn’t their fault, their main fear was put to rest.

  6. I have a friend who loved her wig so much that she regretted not being able to keep wearing it in the months after her hair grew back in! It made mornings so easy: just shower, dry off, and put on the wig! May you find many such silver linings in the cancer cloud.
    One silver lining that I see already: so many people praying for you & your family,by name. I’ve never met you, but I am praying for you & Brad & Maren & Greta.
    “The battle is raging. Good will triumph.”

  7. You are very lucky to have such wonderful friends and family. praying for you

  8. You are such a good mom. I’m in your corner!

  9. KristinaYellow /

    Thank you for sharing those tips; as a Momma of a 3 yr old (and currently 3 months pregnant with #2) I’m always worried about how and what I say regarding my illness. I have MS and chronic daily migraines. Fun times. I don’t want her scared of headaches or being sick and I’ve tried to explain that Mommy’s body just needs a little help sometime because parts of me get extra tired (that was during my last relapse and I couldn’t do much with my left arm). She does really well at her own doc appts but I’ve never thought about taking her to mine–I’ve always thought it might scare her to see her Momma getting bloodwork and tests and stuff. But I think you are right–by taking the mystery out, she’ll hopefully be more accepting and less upset when I have to go without her. And you know what? I have already been told by several people (none of whom are related or that we even really know that well–so you don’t think I’m biased!) that my daughter is one of the most empathetic kids they have ever met. She always gives hugs or tries to help other kids or adults are are sick–bringing them bandaids, ice packs, or just rubbing their heads. I know chronic illness sucks but it can have a positive impact on some aspects of your kids’. They will grow up to be more understanding, more loving, and more thoughtful because they see just what you go through and how tough you are-and they want to be like you. So after writing way too much, I wanted to let you know. Before it gets really really bad outside–check out Coolibar. It’s a company that makes SPF clothing and such. I use it since heat can make my MS rear it’s ugly head but I can’t stay inside with an outside loving kid. So I got a long-sleeve shirt, a big hat, and some stuff for her and I wear that. It helps keep me cool and comfy plus with built-in SPF. I hope it helps. I wish I lived closer–I’d love to help you shop for some really sassy hats or head covers. HUGS and prayers to you and yours.

  10. Julia /

    Dear God, three and a half years ago I was in your shoes – diagnosed with breast cancer. Children were 4, 3 and 8 months (poor third child had the fastest weaning ever). It’s a hard fight, but by the grace of God and lots of help from friends and family, we made it through. I’m still here and cancer free. Do you have a coordinator for meals, childcare and cleaning? That was such a help to me – I would just call my friend and say “I need this, this and this on these days” and she would make all the phone calls.

  11. Linda K. Howard /

    Jen, you don’t know me…I am Beth’s oldest sister….our family has been touched more than once by cancer….I want you to know that you are on many prayer lists here and we lift you daily to the throne of grace….Beth often shares with me the pictures of your precious girls, you have a wonderful supportive family. The battle can be won, be strong, have faith….I know you can do it! Linda K. Howard Ashland, Ohio

  12. maria /

    I´m very pleased to be able to read your blog .. sometimes maybe Life give us exacly what we can take .. maybe notwhat we wish or not what we imagine .. but I can fell that u are such a strong woman being able to write like that .. you re giving me courage to live ..thank you

  13. Please God Please!

  14. Melissa /

    I saddened yet energized by your blog at the same time. I am 31, I too have two kids (4yrs and 18 months) and I too have cancer. I was a stay at home mom until all this happened, but am now forced to send my kids to day care so that I can take care of myself. I finished radiation chemo last month and am now preparing for surgery. I won’t be able to hold my own children for 6 weeks! After that I have 6 more months of chemo. I completely understand your difficulties discussing cancer with your kids, I empathize with your desire to feel normal and not “the cancer mom.” Your positive attitude to take your diagnosis by the devil’s horns is empowering. For that I thank you.

  15. I loved that idea of bringing your daughter with you to the doctor. Also, thank you for the bit of advice on not telling your kids that someone with cancer is ‘sick’. If have done this with my kids before with that same thought in the back of my mind but never really thought to just tell them what is really wrong (duh!). I find myself thinking of you and your family often and I pray each time. I pray “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) Thank you for writing!

  16. Your writing is so strong and beautiful. Just like you! I like your suggestions from the counselor on naming cancer and the *stuff* that goes along with it. I recently had THE TALK with my 10 year old and six year old. Just the basics, mind you. I was very specific with my vocabulary – no *special hugs* or *private parts*. I didn’t want any confusion.

    BTW, I do realize that sex and cancer are too very different subjects to have to broach with your kids. I certainly don’t mean to minimize your challenge. I only wanted to agree with your approach.

    Prayers and healing white light on the way…

  17. Julie /


  18. Kimberlee /

    I know we’ve never met but I’ve been praying for you daily! My bible study and I prayed for your healing as well. Keep faith, God will you heal you! It’s not your time to leave. 😀

  19. jennyabby /

    I’ve been praying for you. You write beautifully.

  20. Tina Mathie /

    And lots of Love and Prayers.

  21. Nancy /

    Healing prayers for you and your family daily. You have many years of art work to frame and hang and enjoy! FIGHT!

  22. Bonnie /

    Praying for you Jen, Brad, Maren and Greta… as you prepare and head into tomorrow’s events. The Lord will be your strength, your hope and your encouragement. ” In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in Praise, Glory and Honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1: 6-7 We are standing the gap for you and your family and our Faith is growing as well. We LOVE you Jen….and joining the throng in prayer for your journey

  23. Heather /

    Your words mean a great deal. It’s good you are writing it down. Came across this via Momastary. You write, and LIVE, excellently. Prayers mean a great deal too – and you have mine. Kick it’s ass.

  24. I was working on your portraits today all the while praying for you. I just discovered your blog tonight and am so grateful to know more specifically how to pray. I feel like I’m reading this just in time as Friday is a big day and it’s nearly here. It’s an honor to fight in this battle with you through prayer. Much love, Carolyn

  25. I was working on your portraits today all the while praying for you too. What an honor it is to do both. I know tomorrow (which technically starts in 5 minutes) is a big day so I’m glad to have just discovered your blog. That way, I can be there every moment praying for whatever is needed. I will be checking in continually and praying throughout the day. Much love, Carolyn (& Brady who will pray too)

  26. I am praying for you. Still. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank you for telling us the tips about talking about cancer with kids. I’m glad you are taking Maren to meet your doctor. They will love her, and so love you more, and she will be less afraid. God bless you and keep you in His love.

  27. Christine O. /

    Prayed for you today. I pray that your chemo etc. will only exactly what it is supposed to do. I can’t remember if I’ve commented yet on your blog since a friend sent me your link but just in case I haven’t check out the movie(documentary) “Crazy, Sexy Cancer”.